ON AN ANCIENT, scratchy recording made circa 1926, Texas-born singer-guitarist Blind Lemon Jefferson began a song with the bold statement: “The blues came from Texas, loping like a mule.” The Lone Star state certainly birthed its own lonesome hybrid of the blues — distinct from the Mississippi Delta — that drew upon several styles of music, including big band music of the swing era, classic country and western, and Tejano music. And when it comes to the blues, jazz and rock and roll, Houston has a musical legacy that few other cities can match.
That legacy is revealed in the enlightening and thoroughly entertaining documentary, When Houston Had the Blues, which screens this Friday, Sept. 22 at Discovery Green. Featuring historical performance footage and interviews with Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Mama Thornton, Clifton Chenier, Arnett Cobb, Jewel Brown, Little Richard, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Billy Gibbons, and many others, the film is a treasure for blues aficionados and anyone who appreciates great American music.
Directed by Alan Swyer and produced by Houston native Drew Barnett-Hamilton, When Houston Had the Blues makes it a point to highlight several female blues artists, including illustrious singer and force of nature Diunna Greenleaf, who will grace the Anheuser-Busch Stage with a powerful set of gospel-infused blues before the film gets rolling. Known as “The People’s Queen of the Blues,” Greenleaf counts Koko Taylor, Aretha Franklin, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, as well as her parents Ben and Mary Ella Greenleaf, who were both deeply involved with gospel music, as influences. Brandon Cole & The Zydeco Bulls will open for Greenleaf, bringing a bit of Louisiana-meets-Texas culture to the proceedings.
The music kicks off at 7pm. Guests are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs, and food, beer, and wine will be available to purchase from the Discovery Green Lake House.
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